Reads from the Rock

Gift ideas for the bibliophile in your family.


Daylight hours are dwindling, and the frigid temps that taunt us are planning their move. Remember the ice moat surrounding your house last winter? It’ll be back. This holiday season, give your friends and family a gift they can really use, the best in-house entertainment available — books (and maybe a cuddly throw for them to snuggle up in while reading). Below is a list of new books and old favorites by the writers who joined us last August at the MV Times–sponsored writers festival “Islanders Write.” We encourage you to stop by “Islanders Write” bookseller Bunch of Grapes to find these books and more terrific titles.


Books about the Vineyard:


“Martha’s Vineyard Tales,” Chris Baer

Globe Pequot, 241 pages

MV Times “This Was Then” columnist’s collection of stories about Martha’s Vineyard history — the quirky, the gritty, the whimsical, and the hard-to-believe. In other words, the perfect gift for anyone who loves the Vineyard.


“On the Same Page,” N.D. Galland

William Morrow, 336 pages

A romantic comedy that tells the story of a journalist secretly juggling two bylines for competing newspapers on Martha’s Vineyard, written by MV Times Ps and Qs columnist Nicole Galland. While this book won’t be out for Christmas, it will be on the shelves Jan. 1, 2019, and is available for pre-order. If you can’t wait, go for Galland’s latest read, “Step Dog,” or her collaboration with Neal Stephenson, “The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.”




“Jam on the Vine,” LaShonda Katrice Barnett

Grove Atlantic, 336 pages

An explosive debut novel that chronicles the life of a trailblazing African American woman journalist through the start of the 20th century.


“Jesse’s Ghost,” Frank Bergon

Heyday, 224 pages

Everybody loved Jesse. Boys wanted to be him — or beat him — and girls wanted to be with him. In a place where fist fighting was a noble sport, and drinking and sex were the only forms of cheap entertainment for teenagers, Jesse was the toughest kid in the valley. Until he was murdered by his best friend. Keep your eyes out for Bergon’s upcoming book, “Two-Buck Chuck & the Marlboro Man: The New Old West.”


“The Secret Chord,” Geraldine Brooks

Viking, 320 pages

Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Pulitzer prizewinning Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot, and into his remorseful and diminished dotage. Brooks is also the author of must-reads “Year of Wonders,” March,” and “Foreign Correspondent.”



“To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement,” Charlayne Hunter-Gault

New York Times, 224 pages

A personal history of the civil rights movement from activist and acclaimed journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault.


“The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts,” Joshua Hammer

Simon & Schuster, 290 pages

To save ancient Arabic texts from al-Qaeda, a band of librarians pulls off a brazen heist worthy of “Ocean’s Eleven.” A Washington Post reviewer called this best-selling book a “fast-paced narrative that is … part intellectual history, part geopolitical tract, and part out-and-out thriller.”


“Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid the Sparked the Civil War,” Tony Horwitz

Henry Holt, 384 pages

As we eagerly await the springtime publication of Horwitz’s new book, “Spying on the South,” why not catch up with some of his other titles, like “Midnight Rising,” “Confederates in the Attic,” and “Blue Latitudes”?


“Ordinarily Well: The Case for Antidepressants,” Peter Kramer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 336 pages

In “Ordinarily Well,” the celebrated psychiatrist and author Peter D. Kramer examines the growing controversy about the popular medications.


“Fever Swamp: A Journey Through the Strange Neverland of the 2016 Presidential Race,” Richard North Patterson

Hachette, 462 pages

Essays about the 2016 presidential race by bestselling novelist Richard North Patterson. Patterson is also a contributor to “Fight for Liberty,” a book of essays by leaders and commentators across the political spectrum in defense of liberal democracy in the age of Trump. And of course, his many page-turning novels will help speed up the longest short month.


“To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder,” Nancy Rommelmann

Little A, 303 pages

A true-crime thriller. The case was closed, but for journalist Nancy Rommelmann, the mystery remained: What made a mother want to murder her own children?


“Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America,” Alissa Quart

Ecco, 320 pages

Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of many middle-class Americans who can now barely afford to raise children. Through gripping firsthand storytelling, Quart shows how our country has failed its families. Her subjects, from professors to lawyers to caregivers to nurses, have been wrung out by a system that doesn’t support them, and enriches only a tiny elite.


“Steal This Country: A Handbook for Resistance, Persistence, and Fixing Almost Everything,” Alexandra Styron

Viking Books for Young Readers, 214 pages

An author, professor, and activist, Styron’s latest book is for young adults. The book opens with a personal essay and a look at civil disobedience and teenage activism in America. Her adult books include the bestselling memoir “Reading My Father,” and “All the Finest Girls,” a novel.



“Sodom and Costello: Selected Poems and Art,” Arnie Reisman

Summerset Press, 78 pages

Second book of poetry by the former Martha’s Vineyard poet laureate. Reisman is also an awardwinning writer and documentary film producer and radio personality. Since the series began in 1996, he has been a panelist on National Public Radio’s “Says You!”


“A Strange Catechism,” Justen Ahren

Xlibris, 68 pages

A collection of the former Martha’s Vineyard poet laureate’s poems.




“Dog Training Diaries: Proven Expert Tips & Tricks to Live in Harmony with Your Dog,” Tom Shelby

Skyhorse Publishing, 208 pages

MV Times “Dogcharmer” columnist’s latest book answers real questions from real dog owners about the most common and problematic pet challenges out there.


“Chesca and the Spirit of Grace,” Lara O’Brien

Lara O’Brien Publishing, 314 pages

A story of love and land, of winning friendships and having the courage to believe in your dreams, for middle-grade readers.


Books about writing:


“Writing From the Heart: Finding Your Inner Voice,” Nancy Sloan Aronie

Hyperion/Little, Brown, 238 pages

The leader of Chilmark Writing Workshops gives good advice for the beginning writer and a jump-start for the burned-out professional. Aronie will help you find your writing voice with this book that includes writing prompts at the end of the chapters.


“The Write Prescription: Telling your Story to Live With and Beyond Illness,” Judith Hannan

Archer, 320 pages

A hands-on, hearts-on guide to writing about illness. Using intimate prompts and personal stories, Judith Hannan takes the reader and emerging writer on a journey through what it means to reckon with illness. Having gone through her daughter’s cancer diagnosis and treatments, Hannan is an experienced, thoughtful, and caring guide for anyone wanting to find a way through the labyrinth of illness.


“The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue,” John Hough, Jr.

Allworth Press, 144 pages

A novel can rise or fall on the strength of its dialogue. Superb dialogue can make a superb novel, and West Tisbury resident Hough shows us how. Hough’s latest novel was “Little Bighorn.”


“The Destiny Thief: Essays of Writing, Writers, and Life,” Richard Russo

A master of the novel, short story, and memoir, the best-selling and Pulitzer prizewinning author of “Everybody’s Fool” now gives us his first collection of personal essays, ranging through writing, reading, and living.